About 2 months ago I finally bought myself a Nike Fuelband after collecting months of inspiration from my Wrapp colleagues and careful selection between Nike’s alternative and the Jawbone Up, and I must way I am amazed by this little device for several reasons.
First of, what’s the Fuelband? The Nike Fuelband is a bracelet which uses an accelerometer and tracks number of steps and calories burned each day. Since I have a hard time accepting the accuracy of tracking those metrics form my wrist I tend not to look at those. Luckily the Fuelband also tracks it’s own activity currency called “fuel points”. This is very clever as fuel points have no references and thus cannot be questioned as much for its measured accuracy, compared to calories and steps. You set your daily target fuel points, based on how active you are, and each day I sync my device through Bluetooth with the Nike Fuelband app for iPhone. The social features are very undeveloped still, but through the app I can compare my activity level against my friends, and see trends on how active I’ve been compared to other days, weeks and months. The app also rewards you with badges based on activity goals met which adds to the gamification aspect.
Secondly and more important, how does it impact my behaviour? Well, knowing your movements are being tracked at all time is actually impactful. I have always been trying to live actively but I find myself now much more often choosing more “active-secure” alternatives in front of less so. Most of the time this is small and subtle things like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator or walking my dog another block when exercising him. But even more interestingly is the fact that when I in the evening compare my activity rate against other days, I have noticed that each time I am significantly below my target or daily average, I become motivated to exercise. This means hitting the gym, strapping on my running shoes or just going for a walk. This change of behaviour is somewhat out o character for me, since I’ve always had a hard time even walking from the sofa to the kitchen in the evenings… Hence, since getting the Fuelband I i) think about being active more, ii) make small deliberate active decisions in the everyday life, and iii) work out more often. Pretty powerful behavioural impacts on my everyday life!
Thirdly, where will this take us? I understand many people think of the Nike Fuelband as a 2nd generation step counter, but whether you classify this as a gimmick, wearable computer or device for quantified health it’s an awesome movement! There are plenty of ventures out there who are leveraging passive technology into your everyday life to give you more data from which you can learn…and more is coming. The Fuelband belongs to one of the more simple technologies which we can use today to track activity levels, and Moves is a good alternative of a similar product utilizing Apple hardware. But what about discretely geotagging your life with images every 30 seconds using Memoto, or using smart fabrics which tracks your movements in detail with Electric Foxy. And even more impressive is the super-hyped Google Glasses which delivers the power of internet at all time right in front of your eyes with voice control. All of these things are cool and plenty, but the natural and most groundbreaking extension of monitoring and tracking your body is of course the area of health care. Gentag for example uses disposable skin patches which wireless can test blood sugar or even automatically deliver drugs if your monitored body metrics hit critical levels. Wow! These are all real-life examples of what companies are creating already today, and there are many others out there. Like any other technology movement, the devices will become smaller, cheaper, smarter and more powerful, and soon enough you will know just as much about your body in real-time as you know about your computer memory and CPU usage.
One fundamental question with merging your everyday life this close to technology, is the one we still haven’t answered on cell phones… yes the health risks. But currently I think the benefits and opportunities far outweigh the risks. And the good thing is, if you already are monitoring your health you will keep a close eye and know in detail about the negative effects this potential generates. :) And as with anything, you can’t improve it unless you measure it, so let’s start monitoring the life and improving it!